Review: A Curious Glimpse of Michigan - Hipp, Kammeraad, and Friends

CuriousGlimpseOfMichigan.jpgI lived in Minnesota for a portion of my "tween" years (though they didn't call them that then), and not only do I still have the Minnesota-shaped cutting board from my seventh-grade woodworking class to prove it, I still remember spending a portion of fifth grade learning all about Minnesota.

Now, I don't know if in these testing-crazed times states still spend time learning about their own states' geography and history, but in case the schoolchildren of Michigan no longer get class time to do so for their state, might I recommend A Curious Glimpse of Michigan? (See also here.)

Based on the book by Kevin and Stephanie Kammeraad and Ryan Hipp, the album features 49 tracks from a lots of musicians including Hipp, the Kammeraads, ScribbleMonster, and Danny Adlerman. As you might suspect with so many tracks and so many musicians, the music here is all over the map stylistically and enjoyably. In spirit, it reminded me a little bit of They Might Be Giants albums, especially Apollo 18, which included a series of brief song snippets which could be played together as "Fingertips" or played randomly throughout the CD.

Truth be told, the album might almost be worth the price just for ScribbleMonster's "I Wish I Lived In Michigan," 2 1/2 minutes of family-friendly power pop that, six months after I first heard it, I still haven't tired of. Almost makes me wish I lived in Michigan, just so I could say I lived in a state that inspired that song. (Wow, that song and Sufjan Stevens. Not bad, Michigan, not bad at all.) But beyond that, there are some other sweet tracks -- the funky "Over 635 Cities" channels Mike Doughty from Soul Coughing while Dany Adlerman & Friends' contribution "Cousin Jacks" sounds simultaneously early 20th and early 21st century. As for ScribbleMonster's "The Fur Trade?," they answer their own question ("Fur! Fur! Fur!"). And I liked the Schoolhouse Rock! blatant ripoff loving homage of "Capital City, Capitol Building."

At over 61 minutes in length, the album is a bit too much to absorb in one sitting. Not that any of it's bad, it's just... long. But it (like the book itself) is a fun thing to dip into here and there.

I think kids ages 4 through 10 will most enjoy the album. You can here samples of each and every 49 tracks at the album's CDBaby page or 4 complete tracks (including "I Wish I Lived In Michigan" and "The Fur Trade?") at ScribbleMonster's Myspace page.

A Curious Glimpse of Michigan is a hoot to listen to, and -- dare I say it -- a little educational. It's fun regardless whether you live in Michigan, wish you lived there, or have only had a brief layover in Detroit. Recommended.

(Note: Bill at Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child may still have a copy or two to give away.)